Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Story of yet another girl

Welcome to the dog days of summer, where one can no longer think of witty titles for one's blog posts. Actually, I found Frankie Landau-Banks to be a whole lot more interesting that the previously mentioned girl. In E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, the title character is a returning sophomore at an elite boarding school, Alabaster Prep. Only the cool crowd thinks she is a new arrival, because over the summer Frankie blossomed into a beauty and now the alpha boys actually see her. Only, they don't see her, not really. She's just a pretty decoration to distract them in the moments between their important manly activities. It takes Frankie a little while to figure this out. But when she tries to become one of the boys -- clearly outdoing them in their manly activities -- they ... well, I don't want to give it away.

Frankie learns that her dreamy, senior boyfriend Matthew Livingston is a member of the secret society, The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds (note the dog on the sealing wax), which has been pranking Alabaster Prep for over 50 years. Another senior, Alessandro (Alpha) Tesorieri, is the head dawg of the Loyal Order, but when he spends a weekend incommunicado at a yoga retreat with his needy mother, Frankie moves in. She creates a gmail account: the.alpha.dog [dawg?] and sets the Hounds loose. Her pranks are ingenious, but they always have a purpose: a salad bar in the cafeteria, all-school meetings moved to the theatre building, not the chapel. Upon Alpha's return, he attempts to find out whose usurping him, but Frankie eludes him; and Alpha can't let the other Hounds know that he's not in charge.

Frankie is so clever, so clearly superior to any of the Basset Hounds, that as a reader you are frustrated by her continued starry eyes over Matthew. Dump him, Frankie! You deserve so much more. I listened to this so quickly because -- like Alpha -- I was so off-balance. I was never quite sure where the story was going. What was she going to do next? It continued to surprise me up until the end. An extremely satisfying story.

The audiobook never made it to the high standard set by the book, alas. While the reader -- Tanya Eby Sirois -- was adequate, she never quite made the story sing. There is an extremely omnisicient narrator in this story, which Sirois read in a completely acceptable way -- it was in no way difficult to listen to. On the other hand, she gave Frankie an almost babyish delivery that was slightly offputting. Her family persists in calling Frankie Bunny Rabbit, but this interpretation seemed extreme.

Sirois also didn't seem to be the most careful of readers (although I can't say for certain that these errors I heard were not taken straight from the text) -- for example, she read Silicon Valley as if she was referring to enhanced female anatomy, something that would have sent Frankie into gales of laughter (as it did me). Of course, this was ultimately the fault of the editing group. Maybe they didn't catch it until the reader was long gone from the studio. However, when the audio expert, Mary Burkey, was talking to my committee at ALA, she cautioned us to think critically about those errors that take us right out of the story. Alas, the valley of silicone did that for me.

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